Saturday , 21 September 2019

Urban Safety: The two-wheeler phenomenon

Helmet use and safety

The survey included questions regarding the use of and opinion about helmets. This is particularly relevant for Pune as the residents of the city have been especially vocal against the enforcement of the helmet law.

The results from the survey regarding safety and the use of helmets are interesting

Surprisingly while only 42% claimed they wore a helmet, 64% agreed that the helmet rule was essential!

Those who didn?t wear helmets or used them occasionally gave several reasons for not wearing a helmet.

Inconvenience of carrying a helmet and the belief that a helmet is not safe are two of the major reasons why people said they did not wear a helmet. The first could be addressed through better design and perhaps a drive to ensure that helmets can be ?checked in? at offices, restaurants, shops, cinema halls etc. The second underscores the need for a more aggressive public awareness campaign.

While public pressure and political opposition to the enforcement of the helmet law has been widely cited, surprisingly the stakeholder interviews conducted by Parisar revealed just the opposite. Representatives of only one political party said they were against the law, one activist stated that helmets should not be mandated in city areas (which is what the state government had sought in its rule, until it was struck down by the court), while all others generally supported the law and believed that it would save lives.

Transport Status Report ? Results

A group of transport activists, recently published a Citizens? Transport Status Report (TSR) [http://bit.ly/tsrpune]. The TSR attempted to present information about the state of traffic and transportation in the city based on nine parameters. Two of those are relevant to the issue of two-wheelers and safety.

A detailed Household Survey revealed that the modal share of traffic in the city is as follows:

Clearly two-wheelers have become a dominant mode of travel in the city. The share of two-wheelers and pedestrians in road fatalities is equally telling (data from Traffic Police).

The high two-wheeler usage in our cities is not only a consequence of the convenience, favorable weather, short trip lengths, and low-cost of this mode but also the poor state of public transport.

Two-wheeler users (riders and pillions) as well as pedestrians make up 83% of all fatalities, while making up only 63% of the modal share. Clearly one must consider both to be vulnerable users, albeit for entirely different reasons. Pedestrian facilities are very poor and people are obviously at the receiving end in any collision. Two-wheelers, on account of their speed and design and lack of use of helmets by the riders results in a death rate out of proportion to their use. This should be an issue of concern for authorities and also two-wheeler users (and in the case of young adults, their parents).

The high two-wheeler usage in our cities is not only a consequence of the convenience, favorable weather, short trip lengths, and low-cost of this mode but also the poor state of public transport. Despite the National Urban Transport Policy which gives priority to Public and Non-Motorized Transport, cities are still pursuing motor-vehicle centric policies such as more roads and flyovers, instead of investments in public transport, primarily bus-based systems. With rising income levels and out of sheer necessity, people are increasingly choosing two-wheelers. The inherent lack of safety of this mode, the lax enforcement of the helmet law and poor public awareness is taking a toll on people. The death of more than 250 persons every year in road accidents, 129 of which are two-wheeler users, many of them young adults, should be a cause of concern for policy makers who instead of taking a populist approach should take comprehensive steps to improve public transport and road safety.

Ranjit is involved in various urban transport initiatives, with his current interests including non-motorised transport, street designs and Bus Rapid Transit Systems.

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